In this file photograph taken on September 4, 2016, Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtas waves during a peace rally in Istanbul, against the war in Syria. Photo: Ozan Kose | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – HDP has officially declared that imprisoned Selahattin Demirtas will be their candidate in presidential elections next month.
“Our candidate is Selahattin Demirtas, who is held hostage in Edirne F-type prison,” announced party co-chair Pervin Buldan in a campaign event in Diyarbakir on Friday afternoon.
Demirtas is currently being held in the high security facility and is on trial for a string of terror-related charges, accused of having ties with the PKK. He denies the charges.
He stepped down as party leader earlier this year.
The pro-Kurdish party shared a message from him: “What falls to me is to be worthy of your stance, no matter the cost.”
He called on supporters to be "actively involved in election work," promising the "best surprise" on election day.
HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli had earlier stated that they would formally announce Demirtas' candidacy at simultaneous events in Diyarbakir (Amed) and Istanbul.
"We are coming together to share our joy in Selahattin Demirtas' candidacy for president," read their statement.
Demirtas wrote a letter that was given by his lawyers and published by Cumhuriyet newspaper on Friday.
"First of all, these elections could be a landmark and affect politics in Turkey for the next 10 years," Demirtas wrote, according to The Region.
"Either the one-man authoritarian regime embodied by the AKP mentality will declare the final victory and doubled the atrocities made so far to turn into a full dictatorship, or we will continue to go down the path leading to the strengthening of the quest for democracy as we have done through the history of the Republic," he added.
The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is the largest pro-Kurdish party in opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey.
Demirtas called the AKP a "rigid one-man regime." He also warned of the "fascists" preparing for "mass media bombardment in the form of a huge advertising campaign," noting Turkey's snap elections are being held during Erdogan's imposed state of emergency.
The HDP was left out
of the main opposition coalition. A HDP official criticized them for excluding their party. The main opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP), named Muharrem Ince as its presidential candidate on Friday.
"On the other hand, the opposition, should be organizing a coordinated and disciplined campaign together with the people, progressive forces, politicians, platforms, and all organized institutions," penned Demirtas.
Five Kurdish parties have formed
the Kurdistan Coalition, but none of them currently have seats in Turkey's Grand Assembly.
“It is possible to counter this fascist rightwing bloc by widening left democratic values and actually have more power than ever," Demirtas summarized.
In January, he stepped down as co-chair of the party, saying he made the decision so that HDP can “meet the new period of political struggle more powerfully.”
Turkey will head to the polls in snap elections on June 24 – the first since a presidential system was adopted through constitutional amendments.
Demirtas, a charismatic politician who appealed to Kurds and leftists, garnered 9.76 percent of the vote in presidential elections in 2014.
Updated at 8:49 pm